JIDDA, Saudi Arabia -- During an emotional buildup to his visit today to U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf, President Bush called yesterday for further United Nations action against Iraq by the end of next week.
Tears streamed down the president's face as he described why he felt compelled to travel to U.S. front lines to visit soldiers in the Saudi desert, then helicopter over the gulf for a prayer service on a U.S. warship before making a final stop at a Marine base.
"It's Thanksgiving, and gosh . . . I will be trying as best I can right from the heart to express my thanks to the young men and women that are serving over there," the president told reporters before he left Paris yesterday morning.
He also said he planned to tell the more than 250,000 military personnel now on duty in the gulf region on his orders that he was confident the United States would prevail in its drive to force Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait.
"They're not there on a mission impossible," Mr. Bush said of the U.S. troops, who will be the first to see a U.S. president in a potential combat zone since Lyndon B. Johnson visited Vietnam in 1966.
After more than three months of mostly waiting around in the desert, the GIs also seem more likely than ever to see action.
There was new urgency last night in the president's call here for the U.N. Security Council to take up the issue of authorizing a military strike against Iraq if it is determined that the global embargo on Iraq is not likely to persuade Mr. Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait peacefully.
"I think we should take action right away in the United Nations for more resolutions," Mr. Bush said, referring specifically to the Nov. 30 deadline after which the United States loses its temporary chairmanship of the Security Council.
Although U.S. officials have been working privately toward that deadline for weeks, Mr. Bush suggests he is now confident of support from the Soviet Union, which has been reluctant to commit itself publicly.
Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev also called yesterday for a Security Council meeting on the issue.
"I would expect there would be yet another resolution . . . strongly against Saddam Hussein," Mr. Bush told reporters here. "But we'll have to wait to see what that resolution does."
Among the topics under discussion is whether the Security Council would issue a formal ultimatum to Iraq that would automatically trigger a military strike if it failed to comply, or whether the Security Council would have to hold a second vote before a strike could be endorsed.
Mr. Bush talked to reporters after a meeting here last night with the exiled emir of Kuwait, Sheik Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, who showed him pictures of Kuwaitis tortured by the occupying forces of Iraq. Similar photographs were on display at the White House press hotel here and were passed around to reporters.
"The treatment of Kuwaitis [is] so cruel and so brutal that it just turns your stomach," Mr. Bush said. "Justice demands that the world listen and understand exactly the kind of brutality that Saddam Hussein has wrought upon the innocent kids and families in Kuwait."
Secretary of State James A. Baker III said last night that the Security Council would hold hearings on the atrocities Monday and Tuesday, apparently in a prelude to further action on a war resolution.
In a related development, the White House announced yesterday a sudden change in the president's schedule that now calls for him to stop in Geneva tomorrow to meet with Syrian President Hafez el Assad.
The meeting will follow consultations earlier in the day in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who, like Mr. Assad, has sent his own troops to join U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf.
The Bush-Assad session also will mark the first time since 1977 that a U.S. president has met with a Syrian head of state.
"He is a coalition partner," Mr. Bush said of the Syrian leader. "He's in the process of moving a substantial force here. . . . I will be talking to him about our common objectives because I understand that the Syrians want to see Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait just as much as we do."